I’m sitting in my Suffolk kitchen, watching the rain fall gently on the tomatoes in our vegetable plot, lost for words as I try to begin a blogpost about this year’s Summer School for Pianists, which ended yesterday.
We’ve just had a fantastic week of music, friendship, new discoveries, old favourites, hard work, laughter and fun, all around the theme of ‘Dance’. There were 18 hours of masterclasses, guaranteeing each delegate 3 half-hour slots. Three student concerts showcased our course members’ skills as pianists and their ingenuity in repertoire choice – a Milonga by Piazzola and a Szymanowski Mazurka spring to mind – and the tutors presented four topics as ‘Piano Matters‘ –The Metronome – Friend or Foe? A User’s Guide to Ornamentation, A Passion for Liszt, and Perspectives on 20th Century Piano Music.
Baroque dance expert Ruth Waterman showed us the steps of dances from Baroque suites. Anyone for a Minuet?!
The tutors’ solo piano recitals featured music from Couperin to Sorabji – by way of Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Liszt, Schumann, Scriabin, Debussy and Busoni – and lieder by Schubert, Bruch and Ravel, preceded by Aperitifs: short talks giving ‘tasting notes’ for the music to be performed. Liquid Aperitifs were on sale in the bar too, before and after. Our joint concert – Piano Now! – included music by Dai Fujikura and Richard Nye, as well as pieces by Sculthorpe, John Ogden, John Adams and Anne Boyd.
A stunning late-night performance of Richard Strauss’ melodrama, Enoch Arden, with poetry by Alfred Lord Tennyson, moved some of us to tears, while Richard Nye’s imaginative piece, This Marvellous Machine, had the audience laughing out loud. The accompaniment class was full, and the duet masterclass was so popular that it needed extra time.
And people went swimming in the pool, tried the gym, disappeared to explore further afield on our free afternoon period mid-week, sang in the choir, took advantage of the many practice pianos at The Performance Hub , booked private lessons, and enjoyed many lively conversations over meals and during the coffee and tea breaks. The final evening saw us celebrating with a Gala Dinner.
Next year’s dates have been announced – 13th -19th August 2016 – and next year’s theme –‘Song’. As an optional suggestion, course members are invited to explore the many piano works influenced by song: Songs without Words, song transcriptions, Song of the Mad Woman on the Seashore, Chants, Solveig’s Song, Song of the Nightingale, Irish Tune from County Derry, folksongs, Oiseaux Exotiques, Gershwin transcriptions, Variations on Ah ! vous dirai-je maman ... the possibilities are endless.
We hope to see you there at The Performance Hub on the University of Wolverhampton’s Walsall campus. Deposits are being taken now and classes are already filling up – contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details and watch this space – http://www.pianosummerschool.co.uk for further information.
Now, since I don’t have to water the tomatoes, I’m off to the piano to look out next year’s repertoire …